Julian Argüelles Trio – Gorund Rush (CF 191)
If you want to show your improvising abilities and sound to the maximum the pianoless trio of horn, bass and drums is one of the most fertile vehicles to do so. That’s what tenor saxman Julian Arguelles has done on his new CD Ground Rush (Clean Feed 191). It’s not just any trio partners he’s gathered together though. It’s Michael Formanek on acoustic bass and Tom Rainey on drums, both leaders in their own right and some sensitive and formidable ensemble voices.
They run through seven Arguelles originals and one number by the entire band. This is loose and driving postbop with nice vehicles to improvise with. Arguelles’ tenor has its own trajectory. He doesn’t sound like anybody much, though the conceptual approach has something in common with Ornette Coleman (and since Ornette’s influence has been enormous, that can be said of many), but not the sound. Julian is very fluid and poised.
Michael Formanek digs in for this session and makes syzygy-like connections with his fellow bandmates. He is in indispensable part of the proceedings and sounds great at all times. Tom Rainey plays drums in ways that play up an accompanying role in the best sense. He’s there in creative ways whether it is a free-form phrase or a swinging quietude, or not-so-quiet too.
All told, the three give out with a very good performance indeed. It should make them proud. The music impresses me, OK? For the less bombastic side of contemporary jazz with no signs of anemia, you would do well to hear this one.
Hugo Carvalhais – Nebulosa (CF 201) ****
O jazz português anda em ebulição, os músicos atingem a maturidade cada vez mais cedo, a edição segue em ritmo inaudito e as boas surpresas sucedem-se – mas esta é a mais fulgurante estreia de um jazzman português de que tenho memória. Ao trio portuense formado por Carvalhais em contrabaixo, Gabriel Pinto em piano e sintetizador, Mário Costa na bateria, junta-se o convidado Tim Berne, um saxofonista na linha da frente do jazz desde os anos 80 e líder dos grupos Bloodcount, ScienceFriction, Hard Cell ou Big Satan. Que Berne não tenha declinado dar o seu contributo, diz muito sobre o nível do trio. Mas que Berne não monopolize o protagonismo e que o que salte aos ouvidos seja a atmosfera, coesão e dramatismo de cada peça é ainda mais digno de admiração.
Nebulosa é feito de melodias interrompidas, ritmos entrecortados, tempos que se suspendem, crepitações de radiação, distribuídos por dez temas cuidadosamente arquitectados por Carvalhais, mas com amplo espaço para improvisação. “ Nebulosa Part V” é o único trecho em que pulsa um swing “ ortodoxo” , mas o sintetizador de ficção científica deixa claro que não
estamos no Village Vanguard, nem sequer no planeta Terra. “ Impala” podia ser uma balada jazz – mas captada por um radiotelescópio em Andrómeda. “ Nebulosa Part III” começa com piano intimista e deambulante, mas o resto do quarteto entra sem aviso e instala uma tensão tremenda, com Berne a consumir-se em línguas de fogo. O CD termina em trio, num tema feito de éter e
algumas notas rarefeitas.
Julian Argüelles – Ground Rush (CF 191) ****
É curioso que dois discos recentes de um destacado saxofonista britânico saiam em editoras portuguesas: depois do solo de Inner Voices, na TOAP, é a vez do segundo disco do trio de Argüelles com Michael Formanek (contrabaixo) e Tom Rainey (bateria) aparecer na Clean Feed. Mas Argüelles tem vindo a tocar com músicos lusos e tem antepassados espanhóis, como se percebe pelo nome e pelas animadas “Bulerías” da faixa seis.
Argüelles domina uma hoste de saxofones, clarinetes e flautas, mas aqui concentra-se no sax tenor – e basta ouvir a linha sedosa, sinuosa e perfeitamente controlada que emite em “Fife” para se perceber que se trata de um músico superlativo. Outro tanto pode dizer-se de Formanek e Rainey, que são um selo de garantia em qualquer disco.
TRESPASS TRIO – “…Was There To Illuminate The Night Sky…” (CF 149)
Hopefully, my friend Dan Warburton will take a look at Martin Küchen’s liners before daring to call me a “purple prose peddler” for a second time. Hard as I tried, it was impossible to understand them (just kidding, Martin!). Then again, what’s the matter with the interpretation of words when the music is, for the large part, stirring? Because this disc, which besides the saxophonist (alto and baritone) features the services of bassist Per Zanussi and drummer Raymond Strid, can be enjoyed frequently and gladly. Eight tracks that, at the beginning, seem to privilege a sort of somberness – the opening “Like A Drum” almost made us believe in a drone-based offering, on Pedro Costa’s label of all places – but when the furious dances start for real, the fleshy components materialize with punishing intentions, and the fun really begins. Küchen’s spirit is totally free, typified by a modus operandi that’s only apparently ungrammatical during the most incensed blowouts (check the title track’s howling cries, or the subsequent “Strid Comes” as examples). On the contrary, the man knows his way around a flurry, the articulation of those outbreaks ultimately prevailing when the pulse is steady and the sense of galvanization is definitively established. Zanussi does not appear as one for the safekeeping of regular beat, either; furthermore, he is able to deliver dynamically charged solos when the moment is propitious. Strid is functionally susceptible to the interplay, admirable in the restraint department (“Walking The Dead”), compellingly talented in the selection of percussive colours utilized with a singular concoction of abstruseness and accuracy, rhythmic independence unchained at last.
Convergence Quartet – Song/Dance (CF 187)
Decoy – Vol. 1: Spirit (Bo’Weavil)
English pianist/organist and improvising composer Alexander Hawkins isn’t quite as well-known on these shores as he could be. His work tends to fall quite far from the European free improvisation mainstream, embracing bubbly lyricism, spiritual heft, and dedication to a diverse series of modern jazz threads (embracing Sun Ra, South Africa, and Charles Mingus equally). Though his discography is somewhat slim and includes only one official date as a leader, his youthful enthusiasm doesn’t get in the way of making work that is honest and mature.
One of his longstanding groups is the Convergence Quartet, which joins Hawkins and bassist Dominic Lash with American improvisers Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet and flugelhorn) and Harris Eisenstadt (percussion). Song/Dance is their second disc and first for the Portuguese Clean Feed label. Lash’s “Second” begins the disc, Hawkins in additive hunt and peck atop plastic rimshots and meaty pizzicato, anthemic and snaking as right hand repetition grabs hold of Bynum’s laconic, cottony pierce. Ultimately, it’s a funky and celebratory beginning, inverted backbeats shoving continual piano and brass reconstitution. Bynum’s phrases are lacy, short progressions that pay respect to Bill Dixon on “Baobabs,” set to an elegiac pace of drifting toms and Aeolian harp rustle. “Iris” starts life as a cornet cadenza, gulps and whines that become measured, Hawkins subsequently providing light deliberateness as Lash and Eisenstadt swirl and grab, the pianist closing with his own unaccompanied section along a Jaki Byard-Herman Blount axis.
Leroy Jenkins’ “Albert Ayler: His Life was Too Short” is highly reminiscent of “There is a Balm in Gilead,” airy refraction mixed with a hushed, lilting theme. The title composition works through multiple parts: a punchy drum-and-bugle corps, piercing metal and arco lines against a duskily creeping piano-drum base that soon becomes fractured accents. A Kenny Drew-inspired blues walk is the apex of Hawkins’ solo on the lush Eisenstadt-penned “The Pitts,” pinched brass waver stitching across the trio’s wooly canvas. Bynum skitters across the kwela theme of “Kudala,” sputtering call and flinty rises buoyed by bright, earthy township rhythms and Brotherhood-like melody.
Decoy is Hawkins’ organ-trio, although it’s a far cry from anything Freddie Roach or John Patton might have conjured even at their most exploratory. Spirit is the first part of a two-volume set, with follow-up The Deep released only on vinyl. Decoy is not a saxophone or guitar-driven group either, instead relying on John Edwards’ contrabass and Steve Noble’s percussion as throaty, glinting foils to Hawkins’ Hammond C3. The closest analog (and there are few) in organ jazz might be the 70s work of Larry Young, dense superimposition inspired by John Coltrane and with an obscure remainder of the groove buried in electric pulse. That is, at least, how Hawkins interprets it on the opening group improvisation, “Outside In,” rumbling keyboard mass occasionally popping out funky fragments, which are gradually subsumed in an all-stops-pulled murk, cymbal wash and throaty arco contributing to a pockmarked tone field. “Who’s Who” moves at a broken clip, elements of Ra and Jimmy Smith peppering a rollicking solo as Noble and Edwards count out a mighty, monolithic beat.
“Episode No. 69” ferrets out particulate rattle, upper-register key jabs in orbit with string harmonics and Noble’s heady rustle. Hawkins’ history with the church organ becomes clear in Gerhard Zacher-like long tones and tart plugged-in dissonance, falling away into hushed patter, cymbal floes and coiled strum before reemerging in density that falls just shy of power-play. The lengthy “Native Origins” deals with volumes in a tidal ebb and flow, heady masses that suddenly become a whisper, then returning in cubic plats and garish, upturned gesture almost entirely hinged upon Hawkins’ C3. Edwards and Noble trade support, fierce arco and Elvin-like triplet bash plugging at Hawkins’ greasy-wet shove and maddening, interwoven shouts. There isn’t any subtlety to the music on Spirit, tinny accents and gut projection on an equal footing with burbling, glitchy arpeggios and colorful swirls in a heaving but distinct coagulation. If you didn’t know music like this was possible from an organ-trio, Decoy will probably turn you on your ear.